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BWW Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Stage Theater at the Elbe River

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BWW Review: PRETTY WOMAN at Stage Theater at the Elbe River

One year after the Broadway debut, the musical adaption of the 1990's Hollywood hit movie

"Pretty Woman" celebrates its European premiere at the Stage Theatre at the Elbe River in Hamburg. The certainly well-known story is about Vivian Ward, a prostitute, who gets to know Edward Lewis by coincidence, a heartless business man, who gets lost in Hollywood. She helps him with the direction from the Hollywood Boulevard (her world) back to the Beverly Wilshire hotel (his world). Succumbed by her charm, he takes her up to his suite for the night and pays her 300 USD for her company. The next morning, Edward sees the benefits in taking her out to business occasions and offers her 3.000 USD to make her stay for the whole week. Thrilled by the chance to leave her world, she accepts. In the followings days, Vivian changes from an ordinary prostitute to a "lady" who influences Edward in that way that he in turn becomes softer and friendly to his business partners.

The stage adaption is directed by Jerry Mitchell, who is known for his great work in "Kinky Boots". New pop songs by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance fit suitably into the story. I would like to highlight the stage settings by David Rockwell as well as the colourful lightning by Kenneth Poser and Philip Rosenberg who concentrate on the important details (you don't need the whole opera when the loge is In Focus) or they adumbrate huge settings (you don't need a fully stocked store when some dresses are enough that everyone can imagine a boutique).

A film adaptation on stage is always be trapped between different expectations: It can be too close to the movie or new settings or/and new songs may leave the audience unsatisfied. This show manages this fine line. Although I haven't seen the film for years, I am surprised how many details and phrases I recognised and which are used to bring the movie alive onstage. The new songs are supportive to the story. "Welcome to Hollywood" - for example - is a sweeping opening number, followed by easy listening songs like "Sie hat was Besondres" ("Something about her"). I personally prefer the stronger and emotional songs at the climax in the second act like "Kein Weg zurück" ("I can't go back") or the duet "Jetzt wird der Heimweg lang" ("Long way home"). But maybe because of the - well known - dialogues and the happy ending, the songs aren't that strong and touchy like "She used to be mine" in Waitress for instance.

Let's have a look at the cast: Mark Seibert (Edward Lewis) is one of the currently best known musical actors with a fan base in Germany and Austria. I have seen him first in "Romeo and Juliet" (a musical which hasn't been found its way to Germany so far) back in 2006. He was recently doing leading roles such as Count von Krolock in "Tanz der Vampire", the Death in "Elisabeth", or he developed with Stephen Schwartz the role of Schikaneder in the musical of the same title in Vienna. His solo concerts or those with colleagues and friends are usually sold out. I don't know anyone who can do a concert series in Shanghai only a week ahead of the opening night in Hamburg and who delivers his role in this quality. I confess that I am fan and I am certainly biased, but he personifies Edward Lewis in a great way.

Patrica Meeden (Vivian Ward) is a musical and TV-actress, best known for her role as Delores van Cartier in "Sister Act" or Rachel Marron in "Bodyguard". She combines the characteristics of a detached prostitute and a grown up Eliza Doolittle who presents a freshly and natural Vivian Ward.

I am positively surprised that alongside these leading characters, the cast line-up is complemented by such experienced musical professionals: Maricel (Kit De Luca) is a singer/song-writer who I remember best as Constanze in "Mozart", Lucy in "Jekyill & Hyde" or Amneris in "Aida". She is covering easily her showstopper "Rodeo drive" with a powerful rock-voice. Maricel is also leading the cast at curtain-call whilst singing "Pretty Woman", the main theme by Roy Orbison which has been incorporated recently into the show on Broadway. The singer, actor and director Paul Kribbe has been working in and on countless shows, for example: "Cats, Elisabeth, Starlight Express, Rocky Horror Show ..." You feel his experiences when he is performing his two roles: the Happy Man and Mr. Thompson. One of the highlights is his dancing and singing in the Italian-style song "In einer Nacht, wie heute Nacht" ("On a Night like Tonight").

The question about the expectations is critical. I assume that a majority of people like the show because it is very close on the movie, although not every small detail or behave can be copied - and it shouldn't. This follows that the focus is more on the story than on the songs and their interpretation. It is the nature of these kinds of musicals that the cast cannot really develop their characters in different ways because everyone knows them from the movie.

In a nutshell: If you are seeking a great night out with a musical which brings back all the memories of this exceptional movie with easy listening pop songs and an experienced cast who bring the characters alive, than go to see the show!

"Pretty Woman" is now playing at the Stage Theatre at the Elbe River in Hamburg. More information and tickets are available through https://www.stage-entertainment.de/musicals-shows/pretty-woman-hamburg/ticketshop.html.



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From This Author Helge Arnoldt